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Covering technological, scientific, and cultural trends that are changing–and will change–human beings in fundamental ways.

Editor's Blog

Valkyrie Ice
April 7, 2011


My friend Extropia DaSilva is a digital person -- and she is one of the inspirations for this article, as she brings to the fore a rather interesting question.  Who are "You”?

As Extropia proves, this is a much deeper question than one might think, and one that we must all answer as we face a future of unlimited possibility. If I met you on the street and asked ‘who are you,’ what answer would you give? Is it the same answer you would give if I asked you in the anonymity of the Internet? Is it the same answer you would give if I were your most trusted friend?

Odds are, your answer would be quite different depending on where and how it was asked. Why? Because we all wear masks. Depending on what we believe is acceptable by society’s standards, we will be more or less honest about who we are. Ask me online who I am, and I'm quite honest–I think of myself as a succubus, right down to the horns, hooves, wings and tail. I'll even tell you that I fully expect technology to arrive in the not too distant future that will allow me to be in real life exactly as I feel in Secondlife. Ask someone like Extie, and she’ll tell you she is a virtual persona—a fully separate entity from the person "running” her as a simulation—and looks forward to the day that she can become an AI. But outside of Secondlife, I certainly can't get a job by admitting to being a succubus: it's not socially acceptable to be one.

Which brings me to the point of this article: Our societies, regardless of nation or culture, are built upon social norms assumed to be outside of human control. Extropia and I, and others like us, suffer the prejudice that derives from these "unchangeable certainties." I get asked, "Why do you want to look like a demoness?" a lot.  My answer is, invariably, "Why should I not?"

We love to talk about how all men are born equal.  It's a great outlook to have, but we all instinctively know it's a lie we tell ourselves as a society.  Legally, we may be equivalent, but a casual walk down the street will quickly reveal that we are not truly equal.  Why? Because if we were truly equal, everyone would look exactly alike. We'd all be equally pretty, or equally tall, or equally beige, but we're not. Some of us are fat, or ugly, or short, or different colors.  From the day we are born to the day we die, we are stuck with the results of the genetic lottery our DNA plays in its efforts to survive, regardless of our personal desires. Stuck with our DNA, many of us go through lives of quiet desperation, wishing we were something other than what our genetic lot says we are.

The same goes for mental and physical abilities. We can educate, but so far we can't change our IQs in any significant way, and if we happen to be born small, no matter how much time we put into the gym it won't make us one inch taller.  We don't talk about such differences, such inequalities, yet we act on them daily. We involuntarily divide ourselves into cliques of similar type and arrange a pecking order based on physical, mental and social differences like race, gender and personality.

I would be willing to bet that if you walked down the street, you could probably make a pretty good guess as to who belongs in which social tier based on appearance, dress, and displays of wealth. You can probably fit just about everyone into some niche or another. Like the Hindu caste system, we've stratified our entire existence based on the unchangeable certainty of our genetic heritage. People like Extropia and I tend to make people uncomfortable because we refuse to fit into those niches; we’re labeled "freaks", shunned like the “untouchable” caste in Hinduism.

You may have never consciously examined societies this way, but you are probably all too aware of your status within your own society, and exactly how little you can do to change it unless you acquire large sums of the local currency.  You are probably also aware of who is above you on that scale, as well as who is below you. You can't help it.  We are social animals; it's hardwired into human genetic code. We will always find ways to divide ourselves because our reproductive drives force us to maximize reproductive success.

Yes, I am aware that numerous other factors come into play in any given individual’s success in climbing the social ladder, but if you look deeply enough, I think you will find lucky genetics plays a major role in many of their successes. Despite the massive complexity of our current society, we are still little more than glorified apes, and base far too many decisions on gut instincts instead of reason. We instinctively find tall people more commanding than short people. We instinctively co-operate with a pretty person faster than we do with an ugly one. We revere good looks and shun deformity.  Even such genetic factors as who our parents are might dictate what opportunities we may have in life; the majority of those with access to substantial wealth are far more often those who come from a wealthy family than those who built that wealth from nothing.  DNA is certainly not the ONLY factor, but is it by far one of the most influential across the broadest spectrum of humanity.

Yet this fact of life is changing. If you've read many of my articles here on H+ magazine, you will find I've spent a great
deal of time pointing out exactly how it is changing, with the advent of portable VR, stem cell based cosmetic surgeries, even continuing advances in cybernetic prosthetics. But what I have not really discussed much are the social implications of this advancing technology. So let me give you a quick recap: it is likely we will soon be able to alter our appearance on a whim, first in VR through the use of "Avatars", then later on in actual physical space as stem cell therapies enable extreme morphological cosmetic surgeries. We will be able to customize every aspect of our physical appearance; height, weight, shape, size, hair color, skin color, etc.  It will all become a matter of personal choice.

Now, I want you to spend a moment contemplating exactly how disruptive that ability will be to the social pecking order I just spent so much time discussing.



Almost every injustice we humans inflict on each other stems from the separation between "us" and "them".  “We” consider ourselves superior, and dehumanize the rest.  White supremacy is a perfect example. What will happen to this rather extreme worldview when literally anyone can choose their skin color, be it white, black, yellow, or pink with purple polka dots?  How desperately will such rigid mindsets seek to maintain the comforting social myth that they are better just because of the genetic markers determining race? How far will we they go to prevent people from being able to change skin colors just to perpetuate this myth? Will we see terrorism in the vein of abortion clinic bombings? Will anti-cosmetic change activists chant about how “god ordains skin tones”, or that “the ability to change is immoral”? Sad to say, I'm all too certain the answer is yes. Once we truly begin to have the ability to change the genetic lottery, we are likely to find all sorts of people will want to limit this ability drastically, lest it threaten the status quo (Or more accurately, their place in the social pecking order).

The same issues hold sway in terms of gender and sexuality. We've learned that questions of sexual identity and preference are just as hardwired into us as our other physical traits, but there's every possibility that those traits may become a matter of choice as well. As outraging as that possibility might be to many members of the LGBTQ community, it nonetheless remains a real possibility that as we learn to reprogram the human body, we may have to face the day when gender and sexual preference can be changed as readily as skin tone. Considering the long history behind the struggle for equal rights for the non-hetero crowd, I fully expect we'll have just as many purists trying to deny people the right to choose who and what they want to be.

And that's just for those who choose to remain within the very narrow definition of what I call "vanilla human."  As should be obvious, I'm not one of them.  Nor am I alone, as should be obvious to anyone who's spent time online, or at any sort of fan convention.   Animegao Kigurumi (anime face masks and body suits that allow people to basically look like anime characters), Furries (people dressing as anthropomorphic animals with any combination of human and animal characteristics), Star Trek and Sci-Fi aliens, World of Warcraft characters, Goths and Vampires; there are enormous groups of people meeting online and forming new societies with identities every bit as strong as those of the older, more "traditional" ones. As technology continues to enable these groups to realize their desires, do you truly expect them to simply stand aside and forego change because another group feels uncomfortable with Anime girls and Furries? Or in my case, because I might "offend" a certain group? Hell, I plan to someday walk into a church and sit in the front row for service with horns, wings, hooves, and tail. Do you really think that any amount of protesting by those who would claim that radically altering one’s appearance is  "against gods will" could stop us?

And what of those like Extie, those whose existence is wholly virtual? I know many others besides her who feel that they are "completely separate" from their "host", who are merely "sharing" a brain for the moment. We will have to face a growing number of entirely virtual people, people who live in the virtual, but interact in the real in the exact same way most of us live in the real and interact with the virtual. As we continue to improve our computers and programs, we may even have a population explosion of Virtuals, as our "digital twins" and "virtual playmates" become sophisticated enough to have thoughts and feelings of their own. We will have to eventually make a decision about virtual rights and how far "ownership" can extend over a semi- or fully-sentient entity, whether they have a "physical body" or not.

We are about to enter an age of choice unprecedented in all of human history. One in which the certainties we have built our social structures upon will be eradicated and replaced with unlimited choice. We will have to face a future in which every fantasy of human imagination has become reality, where trolls can walk down the street with wookies, and centaurs and satyrs frolic in the parks. A world in which there are no losers in the genetic lottery because DNA no longer controls humanity and has instead become its servant. A world in which the walls that exist between our dreams and our waking reality have come down.

It is not going to be an easy transition by any means. We've spent our entire lives knowing that the face we see in the mirror will be that same face day after day. Many of us have given up hope of ever being anything different, trying to convince ourselves that we're "happy" with "who we are." We've even got groups out there protesting "Barbie dolls" because it "raises unrealistic expectations." I look at those groups and I have to laugh, because I know it's caused by disappointment and sour grapes. We DO want to look like Barbie and He-man, like Angelina and Arnie in their prime. We want to be free to look on the outside how we feel on the inside, to be the beautiful people instead of the genetic losers. And we will. I have no doubts about that.

The only question I have is how many people will die defending the status quo. How many will chose to kill rather than allow true equality? Because morphological freedom is exactly that: true equality. With the ability to look as we choose, any number of bio- and cyber-enhancements to equalize physical abilities, and any number of "mental helper" software and hardware devices to raise IQ, we will have truly created a world in which everyone is born equal. Where we go from there is entirely up to us, and while I am all too certain that our early experiences with morphological freedom will result in ten million Pamela Anderson and Brad Pitt clones as everyone seeks to become the "perfect 10", I know that we will in very short order begin to explore the infinite variations of possibility. And when we do, we will have to finally face our xenophobia and overcome it.

Because I WILL be a succubus, and I'm not going to give up my wings and hooves just because you can't cope with their existence. Neither is Extie going to stop seeking to become independent just because you can't wrap your brain around the concept of a virtual person. Nor will the vast armies of furries, vamps, Goths, aliens, anime characters and who-knows-what-else cease to exist simply because you are happy with being human, and think we're nuts. We've stood in the shadows too long, hidden behind masks of other people's expectations, but not for much longer. When we begin to taste life as our dreams, first through VR, and not long after, via cosmetic alterations, we will not allow ourselves to be shoved back into the dark. You WILL have to come to terms with us, whether you like the idea or not.

And maybe, once everyone everywhere can finally be free to be whoever and whatever they chose to be, we will finally realize there is no "us" and "them" because we are them and they are us and we are all human no matter what we look like–even those of us with horns and hooves and wings. Underneath the customizations I will still be the same person I always was, I just won't be hiding anymore, and neither will many others like me.

And once we no longer need to hide who were are, maybe we won't feel so much of a need to force others to hide their real selves either, and we can finally do away with prejudice and irrational hatred of others just because of their looks. It's long past time the human race gave up such childish behavior.

That's my dream, and one I hope many of you share.

61 Comments

    Interesting incites into our current and future psyche. I am curious to know, for those who invest time in the creation and shaping of their VR avatars, do you feel a sense of divergence and at what point? In essence, do you feel a as if you are becoming a separate entity from the physical-reality you and at what point did this occur? I think the answer to this may give us incite in what it means to embody consciousness and the prospect of AI gaining doing the same.

      I can't answer for most, because I am not typical. I am not a "divergence" from my IRL indentity, my IRL identity is complete fiction, existing solely to conceal the "real me" simply so I can function in current society. My legal name is little more than a meaningless title given to me by others to suit their expectations of me, the social "persona" I use when I am off line is built entirely out of what the people around me expect me to be due to my physical appearance. In every sense, it's a false front that I will do away with when the technology finally allows me to.

      In this sense, my physical body is more of an "avatar" than my "Avatar" in Second Life is. Everything about it is at complete odds with my mental self, leaving me feeling trapped in a prison I have been stuck in since birth, but I don't feel any "divergence". IRL me is simply wearing a costume I can't take off, while VR me is not, nothing more.

    Neither is Extie going to stop seeking to become independent just because you can’t wrap your brain around the concept of a virtual person.

    This point goes far beyond the horns and tails Avatar cosmetics. Once fully sentient virtual persons are possible, we enter a phase with two very serious risks: The first one is Robin Hanson's predicted economic race to the near-subsistence driven by ubiquitous "em" copies competing for wages.

    The second, even worse, risk is the ability to literally hack minds, and to torture them in unimaginable agony loops if they don't serve as de facto slaves for an elite who has the buttons to push.

      I don't read Robin much, but to me, that scenario appears to assume that the current economic systems based on scarcity are set in stone, while I see numerous signs that it's already in collapse and heading towards a new economic paradigm in which the overwhelming majority of human needs will be met using materials that are so plentiful that neither cost nor human labor will remain factors in meeting them. That is not to say that this transition will be smooth, or that efforts will not be made to prevent this change, but I don't see any methods that could be used to effectively prevent this shift from happening.

      Which means that I don't see your fear of a "race" between "virtuals" and "humans" being either inevitable or necessary because the conditions that would lead to it are changing and by the time it is possible for this "race" to even begin, the economic systems will have likely already mutated so much as to make it a moot point. Long before "sentient level artificial personalities" are feasible, the overwhelming number of jobs as we understand them today will have already been automated by advances in 3d printing, as well as software and robotics. And regardless of your fears, THESE ARE NOT BAD THINGS. They are the inevitable end products of the current economy and the foundations of the economy that will replace it. The faster this shift occurs, the fewer the number of people who will suffer due to the elimination of jobs.

      As for your second point, you're quite right. But I would urge you to read your history, or for that matter, simply the news. Your scenario is little more than typical totalitarian oppression, and I have dealt with how totalitarian systems work too many times previously. Sure, your fear is possible, and it might even happen. And if it does, it will result in what such abominations always have, a mass rejection that will result in the elimination of the worst oppressors, followed by the creation of measures that will prevent such abuses in the future.

      The days in which totalitarian measures can exist are numbered, and the very technologies so many fear will be used to enforce totalitarian regimes are also the same tools that will eliminate them in a very short span of time, and for all time. That is not to say that attempts to create them will not occur, but that such attempts will become less likely to succeed the further in the future we go, and any "successes" are going to be short lived, no matter how many "atrocities" they are willing to commit to stay in power.

        Thanks for your reply. I think Robin Hanson's near-subsistence argument against usual post-scarcity scenarios is that virtual persons can be copied far easier than bio-humans, without a childhood stage and with the full set of skills and experiences. Since such exponential copying is generally profitable and produces a quick population explosion (barring regulation), the energy and matter needed to sustain more of them is in exponentially increasing demand. You would need to postulate something like access to practically unlimited resources (pocket universes? FTL colonization?) in order to sustain such growth. Nanotech etc. can't solve the problem since there's only a limited amount of matter and energy available within our light-cone (and copying complete minds results in such a fast exponential growth that this limit is quickly reached).

        As for your optimism against future totalitarian regimes, I think that key technologies like mind control or ubiquitous surveillance with AI systems could successfully lock-in a given power structure for a very long time, if not indefinitely. If such a system doesn't care for the well-being of its sentient slaves (compare contemporary factory farming etc.), there will be much suffering created. However, I hope I am wrong and you are right.

          The assumption being made is that such "virtuals" would offer a benefit to a corporate environment that is unlike to still exist within 20 years. The corporate system is already in it's last stages, and rapidly creating the technologies that will result in the massive decentralization that will render them non competitive. See my article on 3d manufacturing for one of the ways they are doing this: http://hplusmagazine.com/2011/02/14/adding-our-way-to-abundance/

          Without the "Corporations" and their single minded drive towards monopoly, there's little incentive in "exponential virtual population" explosions to fuel corporate profits, which makes the entire scenario unfeasible. The environment that promoted the creation of the "Behemoths" will no longer exist, and the future is billions of tiny corporations in which monopoly is impossible. This is going to result in most of the world's population no longer "working" as we understand it today, but instead allow the majority of the population to engage in what we consider "leisure" activities due to the ability to provide nearly all material needs at minimal "cost"

          That's why I recommend reading history. If you understand the factors that lead to the creation of the current corporate system, you can see that those factors are rapidly disappearing, and that this is due entirely to the successes of the corporate model. It has succeeded so well it's overcome the problems it was a solution too, and has now reached obsolescence, and is rapidly creating an environment in which it can no longer survive. The overwhelming majority of the current economic crisis is being caused by the efforts of the giants to prevent their own demise, but those efforts are ultimately futile and merely hasten the creation of a new economic model.

          As for totalitarian control, ubiquitous surveillance is precisely why I say that such tech is as useful to the oppressed as it is dangerous to the oppressor. I've covered this a ridiculous amount of times, but once again:

          The increased ability to spy results in the increased ability to be spied upon. A Surveillance arms race is already underway, the ultimate result of which will be worldwide total transparency in which all tiers of society will be equally "visible" and in which all activities of everyone in the world will be "public access" with limits only for "social privacy." This will apply as equally to the "elites" as it will the "masses" and it will create an environment in which secrecy cannot exist. Secrecy is the primary tool of totalitarian oppression, used to control information and to escape accountability. Without secrecy, totalitarian government cannot exist. The fears of a "forever in control" totalitarian regime are just that, fears, because the very tools needed to make it a reality are the exact same tools that will make it impossible to achieve.

            It seems plausible that souveillance is a powerful tool against totalitarian tendencies, even though it probably has failure modes we can't anticipate.

            Regarding your argument against the corporate system and for post-scarcity, I feel like you didn't successfully address the basic dilemma between exponential population growth and limited resources. 3d printing doesn't create new matter and energy from scratch, and virtual persons won't be copied by monopolist "molochs" alone - if you could use some of your private resources to create three happy copies of yourself, wouldn't you? Many people would.

            If these copies compete with everyone else for jobs, or resource allocation (in whatever system is used to govern it), there will be scarcity unless libertarian reproduction is regulated and/or prevented otherwise - globally.

              I'm not really concerned about energy use or resource allocation due to the numerous energy technologies being developed that appear to me to promise multiple orders of magnitude increases in energy availability combined with advancing electronics and other devices that will require orders of magnitude less power to run. When you combine both trends you more or less end up eliminating the energy concerns you've expressed for the foreseeable future, and when you add in 100% recycling technologies, morphological matter, and 3d printing using "space filling" materials that use .001% of the matter that a subtractive manufactured product does, it really makes me view the whole "limited resources" argument as little more than people making assumptions based on current extremely inefficient and wasteful resource use patterns without being aware of the fact that those patterns are undergoing just as drastic a change as most other technological advances. We are not going into a future in which any resources is "Used up" and then "thrown away" like our current paradigm, but one in which every resource is merely temporarily allocated into a particular use, and then recycled indefinitely. Our current "Trash dumps" are going to become the new "resource mines" of the post industrial era, making all the "waste" of the last several centuries a plentiful source of raw atomic materials.

                When you combine both trends you more or less end up eliminating the energy concerns you’ve expressed for the foreseeable future

                No, unfortunately you don't. The point was not about efficiency of usage but the fact that limited resources are limited by definition. Even orders of magnitudes of efficiency increases don't change that fundamental fact. It seems to me like you simply skipped over my point about exponential population growth and the simple logical conclusion of what happens when you have exponential growth of replicators in an environment of limited resources no matter how efficiently they can be used.

                  How is a resource which is NOT USED UP and which is RECYCLED INDEFINITELY in any REAL sense limited? When there are sufficient resources on this planet with MODERN USAGE PATTERNS to enable every single human living on it to live a life of relative ease. We don't have a resource shortage, we have a resource ALLOCATION problem due to 1-2% of the total population hording 90% of all available resources. With increases in available power, extreme reductions in individual resource use, and a correction of the massive imbalance in resource allocation, we could easily support 30 to 40 times the current number of people on this planet. Thus, I would not consider every person in the world making multiple copies of themselves problematic.

                  America ALONE could feed half the worlds population, but massive profit protection special interests pay farmers to either not grow, or to burn harvests to ensure that over production does not occur and disrupt market prices. Monsanto deliberately sells wheat seed that has been sterilized to ensure that farmers continually have to buy new seed each year instead of simply being able to replant a portion of the previous harvest. The entire system as it currently exists is designed to severely limit production on a majority of human NEEDS to ensure that they remain COMMODITIES and thus continue to keep the 98% DEPENDANT on the 2%.

                  Thus I do not consider "limited resources" to be a "REAL PROBLEM" but to instead be a "MANUFACTURED PROBLEM" that will cease to exist alongside the corporations that manufacture it.

                  Yes, in a far distant time resource limits might become a real problem, but I do not see it as one within the next few decades or even as likely this century, and by the time it becomes a REAL problem, we are likely to have expanded off this planet and massively increased the amount of resources available.

                    Thus, I would not consider every person in the world making multiple copies of themselves problematic.

                    There will at least be a small minority of copies who will make copies who will make copies whose primary goal in life is to make more copies. Fast forward a couple months to a few years, and these memetic/personality types who value more copies will constitute the majority of all intelligent beings. The reproduction will be much faster than in humans because childhood and development stages are simply skipped; for intelligent/skilled/educated ones, society will value their added contributions, and unless there's complete dictatorship in resource allocation, they will be able to allocate more and more resources - and make more copies.

                    You'll be surprised how fast this exponential growth hits its material limits unless reproduction is heavily controlled top-down, which at this stage will have to happen against the vast majority of all the world's most skilled and productive minds. Post-scarcity without quasi-totalitarian control of reproduction is simply never going to happen.

                      You are using the exact same arguments being used to claim that fundamentalist theologies are going to dominate the world by the end of the century, which shows to me that we have some very strong differences of opinion on both how the human psyche works and how group dynamics works. Essentially, you make the assumption that A) A copier is going to be able to exist harmoniously with their copies, which is not guaranteed, since if you've ever seen how poorly two people with nearly identical personalities tend to clash, that is IMO an unlikely event, and 2) that unlimited resources will be available to that individual AT THE EXPENSE OF ALL OTHERS. and 3) that there is some inherent value in the mere act of copying which will make endless copying desirable.

                      To be blunt, I don't think that even a small percentage of the human race will be able to cope with multiplicity UNLESS it is in essence a SINGLE MIND simultaneously in control of all bodies. I know too many people who find their own personality traits objectionable in everyone else they deal with. Multiply that by five or ten, and most of them are likely to go on a clone killing spree. I'm a pretty laid back person, but I doubt even I would be able to cope with more than a few of me at any given time.

                      And for the slight chance remaining that there might exist a person who is perfectly able to cope with themselves regardless of number of copies, even effectively unlimited resources for the human race does not translate into practically unlimited resources for a single individual. As such an individual begins consuming more and more resources, they will inevitably run into hard limits on those resources due to the fact that other people are already using them at any given time. If they then proceed to "steal" resources from others to give to themselves, they will run into those measures I discussed earlier that will enforce accountability. As such, they are not likely to reach a stage in which they are even more than a tiny fraction of the total population. Your scenario supposes unlimited ability to copy, or a need to have a top down control, when neither is likely. Inherent societal checks and balances due to transparency and accountability are sufficient to render such a "threat" unlikely.

                      Which brings me to the last point, the assumption that multiple copies of yourself has such an high inherent value that it will provide a it's own incentive to make more copies. The ONLY way I can see this as feasible is via shared consciousness in which a single mind controls all copies, which is likely to have it's own limitations which we can as yet not know of.

                      So to boil it down, I think you're manufacturing a "what if scenario" which I find to be so far fetched as to be unable to take seriously, just to try and support your difference of opinion with me.

                      And that's fine, feel free. I simply will have to agree to disagree with your reasoning.

                      Ah, running out of discussion space. Just a quick few finishing points then.

                      You are using the exact same arguments being used to claim that fundamentalist theologies are going to dominate the world by the end of the century

                      Not quite. There are some arguments from vertical memetic transmission in fundamentalists, who have more children than other people. The effect is probably real, but I think this can't withstand the pressure from sophisticated horizontal memetics for long. However, if you copy a full mind, you copy all its personality traits and all memeplexes in that mind. This is darwinism on crack, and the selection pressures favoring "copy-this-mind" memes will be strong. OTOH, horizontal meme transfer will still happen.

                      A possible counteracting force could indeed be that there will be a societal taboo against unchecked copying + global surveillance/sousveillance. This could arise not just from top-down totalitarianism but also from the collective self-preserving instincts of people in a globally connected world of longevity. It would require, however, that the meme "avoid malthusianism globally" is more resilient than "mind copying is a universal right" and similar memes. And for a very long time. And there would need to be systems to punish defectors who copy anyway. And these systems would have to be accepted by people who may put high value on personal freedom.

                      You don't need shared consciousness for the "copy-this-mind" meme though. "I am great, therefore the world should have more of me" is quite a plausible candidate. They don't even need to get along, the copy will be self-sufficient and can "move" somewhere else, take on a slightly different identity.

                      As for "stealing" resources, in any kind of open market, the copies would work for their resources and compete with others. Unless you have a system that completely decouples societal resource allocation from personal productivity, you'll get this effect.

                      Generally speaking, exponential growth and limited resources don't go well together. This point is very basic, and it limits our options in how to build the future to implement chosen values.

                      Thanks for the interaction, Vakyrie Ice.

                      I'll keep this simple and short as well.

                      I don't really see exponential "copying" as a threat because the view I have of human nature and how it functions argues strongly against it. We're wired in such a manner that I feel anyone seeking to "self replicate" in this manner would become "self destructive" in short order due to the peculiarities of human ego and the inherent social control mechanisms built into us via evolution. We evolved to maximize diversity, which is why no social mechanism that seeks to enforce conformity has ever been more than partially effective. Humans are simply not evolved to be drones or clones. That's why the "fundamentalist baby machine" is ludicrous. Children of fundies are just as likely to reject their parents ideology as embrace it. In the same way, the different experiences of a copy will force a divergence of mental development that is likely to promote divisiveness, and possibly even conflict between clones. Without a mechanism to maintain unity of identity, I would even view conflict as inevitable.

    I wonder how many times the human race has gone down this path, and I wonder what the outcomes were the first (and thereafter).

    Though insightful in some respects the author has fallen into the trap that most articles focusing on the future fall into- excessive speculation. The fact of the matter is, we don't know the future and speculation is just that.

    Also, at what point do we draw the line between two distinct personalities sharing a body and dissociative identity disorder? Can one human's mental disorder really be another human's "rights movement"?

      Ah yes... the "I can't wrap my brain around the concepts you speak of, so therefore I dismiss them without presenting any evidence against them" response.

      Exactly what "excessive speculation" do you think I am engaging in? It's very hard to present the evidence that reinforces my views if you fail to present the evidence that you thinks refutes them.

        Please don't misjudge me. I don't mean to dismiss or refute what you have to say. I simply want to see restraint exercised in prediction. It's all too easy to simply predict what you'd like to see because the number of possible outcomes is- or seems to be- so great. As an example of excessive speculation:

        "We are about to enter an age of choice unprecedented in all of human history. One in which the certainties we have built our social structures upon will be eradicated and replaced with unlimited choice."

        It's also very possible that politics, economics, natural disasters, etc. etc. will get in the way of this possible outcome and push it off for another hundred years. Or perhaps people just won't, for whatever reason, adopt the archanarchist view of choice that you present. People aren't rational even though free choice is.

        Anyway, what I'm saying, in brief, is: we don't know what the future is going to look like. The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan just recently proved that. Some humility is needed when speculating where the world will go. But please feel free to speculate about where you want the world to go.

          *giggle* I am using restraint, whether you believe that or not. This is just one tiny aspect of the massive waves of change that are already underway, one small part of a technological tsunami.

          I recommend reading the other 16 articles I have on H+ as well, in order to understand a small part of the evidence I have for my views, and to get a better idea of why I foresee this kind of "future of unlimited choice" and the likely chaos it is going to cause short term as we adapt. Morphological freedom is just one of the many drastic changes that will be forced on the world due to technological innovation, the corporate quests for profits, and the governments quests for control.

          As for politics, economics, and natural disasters? Those are precisely the causes that I am using to forecast from in conjunction with technological advances. Unlike many futurists, I seek to examine the social, political, and economic trends that are acting on humanity alongside the accelerating advances in technology, and these predictions are based on how the technology is likely to be used, sold to the public, misused, abused, retaliated against, agendized, made into political buzzwords, legislated, and then finally simply accepted into society. I don't simply look at initial effects, I look at repercussions, backlashes, unintended consequences, even potential positive and negative propaganda for the various advances. The disaster in Japan might have been unpredictable, but I have long known that sooner or later another large scale nuclear disaster would occur, and that it would result in two effects, massive political grandstanding, and either a move to the far safer reactor designs of modern make, or a focus on one of the many alternatives that are extremely close to full functionality, with a likely split in reactions between US Europe (anti new reactors) and Russia China (pro new reactors). Only the time, location and magnitude were unpredictable.

          This is why I can disagree with you as to how much "speculation" I am doing. I'm not engaging in flights of fantasy unsupported by evidence, I am examining extremely massive data sets and extrapolating logical results based on current data. As the data changes, I re-evaluate those results. Is everything I predict wrong? Of course it is, all predictions are inherently guesswork, and differ only in degrees of wrongness. but there are significant differences between guesswork based on solid research and wishful thinking. You are free to believe I am merely speculating, but I must disagree.

    Hi, I am new here and don't want to sound rude or spiteful; however recently there have been discoveries that will put your vision on hold.

    The first is genetics. I recently read an MIT published magazine that had an article about genetics and another about the "Complete Human Genome Project" (I think that is what the project was called). Anyway the latter pointed out there is a whole lot that we do not know about DNA. The first was about the discovery that the experiences and DNA of the GRANDPARNTS of mice affect their grandchildren's lives and DNA.

    Also for a summer reading project I learned of a book called "The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter, & Miracles" that was about how a person's environment affects their DNA.

    So I hate to burst your bubble, but by the time your vision comes true we may all long be dead.

    P.S. What is the "website" thing for when submitting a comment?

      Shane,

      Good comment. The "website" field is for you to put the URL of your website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you do, people will be able to click on your name and go to your website.

      Actually, I'm basing very little of my future projections on DNA manipulations *alone*, though I do discuss it's overwhelming effects on current social systems. You are quite right that we're still learning about DNA, but we don't necessarily need to know everything about DNA to use cybernetics, or stem cells, or even creative body "sculpting" to accomplish the same effects. There are already people using modern day cosmetic surgeries to alter their appearances. This will only become more commonplace as time progresses. In fact, due to the advent of practical VR this decade, I expect to see a massively increased research budget into all the various technologies that will lead to morphological freedom. Even DNA research will speed up due to the multiple order of magnitude leaps in computing power that will likely occur this decade as we shift from silicon only computers to graphene and CNT based ones.

      Even such drastic changes as skin tone or multiple limbs need not be DNA level changes, as Qdot tattoos could easily enable full body color change like a chameleon, and cybernetic prosthetics have already been proven to be controllable as "additional" limbs instead of mere replacement. Many recent advancements in robotics and prosthetics are likely to find their way into the field of prosthetics as they are refined, made more durable, and can be produced more cheaply. Wings constructed of CNT muscle and anchored to a graphene frame along the ribcage would be far more capable of lifting a human bodies weight without needing to give a human the massive breastbone of a bird.

      That's why I see this as inevitable and within the near future. There is not a "single path" to morphological freedom, there are multiple means of achieving it. DNA is only one of them. We are controlled by it now, but will not be much longer.

      As for the website entry, if you wish to link to your personal website, such as a blog, just enter your URL in the website box.

    The mistake that author Ms. Ice seems to make is assuming inequality is a cause of human problems, instead of an effect. The cause of human problems is original sin; the effect is racism and sexism. To artificially make women equal to men through contraception and abortion only perpetuates the lie that inequality causes anything in human affairs.

    Inequality is a great good -- the foundation of human love, which is a volitional action impervious to emotion. Volitional love is the only force that brings Man happiness, as it is cooperation with God Himself.

      If you really even understood your own religion and it's history, you'd be ashamed to peddle that snakeoil. Unlike you, I don't confuse love with hate and intolerance.

    I think we have some sectors of economies and societies that have approached post-scarcity already, and people in those cultures have developed some interesting ways to "deal" with it -- elites and non-elite members alike. Our main innovation: fashion. When most of us have access to more than enough stuff for a given basic need, another level of "need" kicks in. We put more effort into achieving personal expression and previously peripheral performance requirements into our specifications of qualities we want in those basic goods. We also find, in general, that we now can put more effort into achieving social relationships based upon compatible interests, beliefs, etc., instead of maintaining social ties based on heritage, social inertia, and so on. These dynamics can combine as a search strategy -- we search out others who seem to be engaging in similar projects of investing in personal expression and honing very personally defined definitions of quality in our possessions and actions (broadly defined), and start to use our own such possessions and actions to signal to others our own interests and preferred associations. Since our values, interests, and actions so far have consequences for our cultural utility for others (including economic productivity), some very persistent feedback circuits develop in relation to social class standing.
    There a several major patterns that have developed in the history of Western fashion over the past few centuries. One is a trend toward comfort and utility among those who can afford to ignore superficial social pressure from others. Another is for those slightly less powerful to mimic the fashions of those slightly more powerful whom they wish to emulate. This second circuit starts a counter-circuit among that very group being emulated: when they percieve that too many wannabes have "swamped the signal" by successfully emulating them in a given trait -- it's time to change the trait! They lose interest in that look, practice, etc. that's "so yesterday" and find a new version of the signal to reference themselves around. As each class of consumer or household good or service has become more inexpensive due to increasingly sophisticated technologies for its production, the stronger the fashion dynamic becomes in that market. I see no reason why that won't play out here as well. What will probably change our experience of this dynamic from past clothing-oriented fashion cycles, trends, etc.? Possibly these:
    1. A more globalized economy and society, with more referent groups/looks to draw from beyond Western cultural norms;
    2. as neurological and cyborged capabilities for consciousness and intelligence increase, we may see the learning curve for increasing social sophistication speed up; increasing longevity will only add to this trend, since we'll have objectively more time to accumulate both personal experience and education.
    3. We now have clothes, cars, and houses to use as social presentation media; but we don't necessarily use them equally as social presentation media. This is due to the combination of cost (its easier to change your clothes than your house), and their opportunities to be used for presentation to different or wider audiences (more people see you in your clothes than in your car, fewer still see your house. And not only fewer, but people with whom you have different relationships). We can also afford differing personas in different social roles: we can afford different ranges of expression and interaction at work, at home, with friends or family... and these can differ depending on what constitutes 'work', 'family', 'friends', for us.
    Yes, we will have greater choice in personal expression and action. What we often forget is that we often intend those expressions and actions to interact with others... and that they will probably have similarly greater ranges of actions, including the right and ability to choose whether or not to interact with us. That will still provide a very real factor in what shapes our sense of what possible or practical. It won't prevent the wider range of possibility that you're talking about (I certainly hope not!), but it will continue to shape how it evolves.

    Yesterday morning I saw a story on TV about how some people are getting "elf" ears, i.e. having plastic surgery to make their ears pointed. The only problem is that sometimes it doesn't work, and cartilage is very difficult to work with, so their ear's appearance is sometimes marred permanently. That's something to bear in mind if you're considering changing your appearance.
    Also, if you're sporting a tail you aren't going to be sitting in church or anywhere else unless you have you're own special chair made.

    Hi,
    Your comment about how you look forward to sitting in the front row of a church wearing your new body speaks a lot to what may be going on inside of you. It sounds like you are really angry at God and believers. That you feel jilted or short changed at what life has given you. It sounds like you are most interested in what 'you will', than in what 'God's will' is for you. It appears you are in a lot of pain and suffering in your desire to escape and follow into a 'better than God could make' human. If any of this is true, I just want you to know that you were created a masterpiece and that you are loved from before birth, perfectly and completely, by your Creator and that if you will turn to Him, He will give you new life and a future far more glorious than an artificial one here where fear and corruption abound and the order of the day is 'do as you will', ever could. Take care and God bless you and keep you always.

      Angry at god? Not at all. I am however pretty disgusted with those who claim to be his followers who preach tolerance and love and practice hatred and intolerance.

      Do you know why I want to sit in the front row? It's because I want to see how many people can overcome all that bigotry and hatred for the different and actually follow that creed of universal love and acceptance. My guess is that it will probably amount to a riot as the entire congregation tries to "exorcise" me. Considering your response, I think I'm pretty on the mark with my expectations.

      Did it ever occur to you to love me as a sister?

      Did it even cross your mind to forgive me for being different?

      Did you even for a second consider not judging me?

      Those WERE the commands given to you by Christ himself, with the promise that if we all lived by them, we would make this EARTH into PARADISE. Maybe you should go read your bible again before passing further judgment? You see, I happen to actually follow the teachings of CHRIST, not the CHURCH, and as such, there's nothing about me I think "the creator" would find objectionable, including my desires to change. After all, if he didn't approve of me, he would not have made me as I am, no? Pity you can't be more like Christ, since you've stolen his name to justify your intolerence.

      But no, you simply reacted like the typical hypocrite who has no concept of god's will, but plenty of prejudices and bigotry fed to them by the church. I truly hope you find it in your heart to learn to love, forgive, and above all, not judge, as Christ commanded, before you continue with making this Earth a hell, instead of the Heaven Christ promised it would become if everyone followed his teachings.

        Hi,
        Well I was right about one thing, you are definitely angry...and I feel your anger is now addressed at me. I was not judging you, I never could. I was merely stating that you sounded hurt and in pain with what life has shown you explaining your need to want something better. I understand. I was simply trying to tell you that you are loved now and that there is something better out there for you in God's plan, not man's. I do not follow anything universal, I only try to follow Christ and live righteously glorifying Him. In your article you wrote a lot about your desire to change, change into something completely different that what you were created. I take no offense at that nor your anger or accusations against me. I am only here to tell you that you are loved completely by Christ and He has something much better for you, far better than man in any of his technology or knowledge will ever be able to offer. Again...God bless you and my prayers are with you...your sister in Christ.

          Again, you make the assumption that "I am lost" and merely need to "be found" by your conception of "god". Inherent in this assumption is the belief that since I DO NOT FOLLOW YOUR EXACT SET OF BELIEFS that I am thus "going to hell" and you need to "Save me" by trying to get me to follow the exact same ideology that you do.

          This is the hypocrisy I am referring to, the intolerance you PRACTICE while PREACHING acceptance. You cannot find it in yourself to accept that I might view things differently than you do, so your solution is to attempt to make me to conform to YOUR VIEWS rather than accepting that I have my own.

          And all the while, you truly believe you are "being loving and accepting" when you are merely being bigoted and intolerant.

          Sorry, I spent my childhood in a Christian school, and I've "been saved" already. You're wasting your time and your pity trying to convert me to a dogma I view as a perversion of the teachings of Christ.

            Wow...did you even read my words? Read them again!! I called you sister....I spoke love for you. Yet again you spew ugliness and treat me like an enemy. You say you were raised in church and know Christ and yet you say you glory in your choice of being a succubus, a demon..something in direct opposition to God and you wonder why believers don't understand you and are shocked at your challenge. You demand tolerance and yet show none to others different to you. You accuse of me and others, that which you yourself do. You know nothing about me and yet you make many false accusations. I never assumed you are lost, you said you are and want to change. I was not trying to get you to conform. ALL I said was that YOU ARE LOVED and offered you another avenue out of pain and suffering. It is your choice what to do with it. I read your words and wanted to merely reach out to you, but because you don't like what I had to say and because I didn't say oh cool, way to go, like most everyone else, you attacked me. Well there you go. It is as it is. God bless you and keep you my sister.

              What you are missing is that I am fully aware of what I am and that assumptions are being made BASED ON IGNORANCE.

              Do you even know the true definition of a demon? It most certainly is not the definition you are assuming it to be. It's a term stolen by the church and "demonized" into representing your concept of evil. That you jumped to the conclusion that I am in ANY SENSE in opposition to god is because you made a judgement IN DIRECT OPPOSITION TO CHRISTS COMMANDS.

              You also make the assumption that I am in pain and suffering, again because you are basing those judgements on religious dogma which has NOTHING to do with reality. If you had actually understood what I was saying in this article, you would understand I AM AT PEACE with my self identity. Yet you assume that my desire to change must be due to pain and suffering when instead it's simply me expressing the truth that MY BODY is just a pretty shell THAT I AM FREE TO ALTER AT MY WHIM BECAUSE IT DOES NOT CHANGE WHO I AM. You do understand the concept of the soul, no?

              So, when I point out the errors you are making, you make more assumptions BASED ON YOUR MIS-PERCEPTIONS.

              So, let me clarify. I'm not in pain, I'm simply myself, and accepting of myself, and indeed, quite happy with myself. My body is little more than a decoration that I wear, much like my clothes. Altering it to suit my whims is no different to me than changing clothes is to you. No matter what I chose to look like, it makes not one whit of difference to who I am, and I could care less if YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT. I'm done with wearing a mask to make other people happy at the expense of denying everything I am and suffering in silence.

              Now, has that clarified the starting point of the false assumptions you've made, all because your beliefs are different than mine? You attacked ME sister dear, by jumping to the conclusion that I was "angry with god" and "going against god's will", when I consider myself to be quite happily walking along my path and doing exactly what I was sent here to do and being exactly what I was meant to be. Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, what I look like is utterly meaningless, and as such, my walking into a church and sitting in the front row is more a test of your faith and willingness to practice what you preach than it is my making a attack against god? Because that's what it truly is, sister. Jesus wouldn't be offended by me any more than he was offended by the centurion coming and asking him to heal his gay lover, or the hooker coming to the well, or the lepers, or so many others.

              So why, pray tell, are you? Why does my being accepting of who I am inside make you think I am suffering? Why is my being perfectly happy with being a succubus, and fully accepting of myself as I am, make you think I am "attacking god?". Why can't you accept that god might love me being exactly what I am? Why did you make all those assumptions of me being in pain and in need of being told that god loves me instead of going "oh cool way to go" and simply ACCEPT me as I am exactly the way god does?

              Is any of this getting through to you at all? Are you understanding anything I am trying to say here? YOU are the one who is assuming that I'm not "walking in gods will" because you can't accept me for who I am, not god. I'm not angry with you, I'm trying to break through that wall of dogmatic insistence that "different is bad" that you are utterly oblivious too, and which took me decades to overcome. I'm telling YOU "GOD IS LOVE" and that he loves me, and made me, and gave these desires to me, and wants me to fulfill them, because he ACCEPTS ME.

              In other words, I AM AS HE WILLS ME TO BE.

              Love one another.
              Forgive one another
              And above all else, DO NOT JUDGE.

              You Judged me, without knowing a single thing about me, and condemned me as a "suffering sinner" without bothering to find out the truth. All I've done since is point out your false assumptions and hypocrisy in claiming to offer love, while making the unspoken demand that I must change who I am to suit your notions of what is "acceptable" in order to receive that love. If you find that to be "spewing ugliness and treating you like an enemy" then consider why I might spurn an offer of love that comes with a price tag attached in favor of one without that price tag.

              I already know god loves me, why didn't you know that too?

                Well according to you, I am less intelligent, I am biased, a bigot, that I hate those who are different, I am judgmental, I don't follow the bible nor know much about it. I am a hypocrite and ignorant.

                You don't know me, what knowledge I carry, where I have been, who I am. You accuse me falsely and have no tolerance for my being different from you.

                I apologize for seeing what I thought was someone in pain who might need help and trying to help them. For offering the only thing I know of that helped me as someone who has found much pain and hatred in this world being a black sheep, and different from most everyone out there.

                I should have known I was speaking to someone who has it all figured out and not wasted the time.

                I still stand by what I said. There is a way out of the pain and deception of this world. Jesus. He brings peace and salvation. I hope for you God's will, peace and blessing in your life and will sign off now.

                  You still don't get it.

                  I have Jesus. I know the bible. I follow the teachings of Christ. I have "accepted him as my lord and savior" etc, etc, etc.

                  Yet you assume that because I DO NOT FOLLOW YOUR EXACT BELIEFS I AM STILL IN NEED OF "SAVING" and that I cannot be "IN GOD'S WILL" because YOU cannot accept me.

                  Not because GOD cannot accept me, but because YOU can't wrap your head around the possibility that anyone can NOT SHARE YOUR PRECISE IDEOLOGY and STILL be "in god's will"

                  And all my responses telling you that I don't agree with you you've decided were attacks, insults, or attempts to belittle you because YOU made the assumption that my differences meant I HAD to be CHANGED to suit your concepts of "right" and "wrong" and I refuse to conform to your prejudices and bigotry, and tried to point out WHY you are being prejudiced and bigoted.

                  But you just can't accept that YOU'RE the one who started out making some VERY insulting assumptions because you can't wrap your head around the possibility that your initial judgement that "I need god" was wrong.

                  You have however provided an excellent example of precisely what I was describing in this article, of someone who cannot handle a world in which we have the choice to decide almost every aspect of our appearence and who will find every excuse to "defend the status quo" by claiming that morphological freedom is "against god's will," and for that, I thank you.

                  I wish you health and long life, and hope you remember that god loves you, just as much as he loves me, even if you can't accept that because I don't share your ideological prejudices.

                    val, ive been reading your posts for a long time, and, to be honest, it really surprises me to hear that you are a christian. what exactly does this entail for you? you dont strike me as the kind to subscribe to supernaturalism/miracles. care to elaborate?

                      Who said I was Christian?

                      I said I follow the teachings of Christ. I REFUSE to be a "Christian" because I find the "Christian" religion to be a false ideology that exists to control people, when the teachings JC gave were all about freedom.

                      I don't need to believe in the supernatural to comprehend that following the three commands outlined will lead to a better world, nor do I have to subscribe to the rest of the dogma inflicted on humanity by the church. The "Creator/God" I speak of is the universe itself. If you must attach a philosophical tag to my beliefs, look up deism.

                      I *was* a southern baptist in my youth, and "accepted" Christ as my savior. The fact that I've since then come to see JC as a man teaching a philosophy and not a "god" doesn't change that fact. By the "beliefs" I was raised by, once accepted, salvation cannot be lost.

                      Simply put, I don't reject the possibility of a "supreme entity" because I view myself, and all transhumans, as working towards becoming said entities. If I see it as possible that we will evolve to become "omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient" entities, then how can I assume that such beings cannot exist? I merely refuse to believe that such a being is the megalomaniacal and genocidal being named YHVH

                      So no, I do not subscribe to the ideology referred to as "Christianity" I simply find JC teachings to be valuable. I cannot be out of "God's Will" because the universe has no will. And I have no anger against anyone. I was however making a point about the assumptions that were being made.

                      Am I playing with words? Absolutely. My ideology is completely different than that followed by scisme49, and our world views are based on completely different concepts of reality. That doesn't change the validity of my comments.

    I also wanted to point out that sitting comfortably in a normal chair, let alone those narrow churchbenches with an actual tail may be quite a challenge.

    So, Valkyrie Ice - why a succubus specifically?
    "Why not" is a brilliant answer for Christopher Hitchens to give when he's tackling the question of why of all people he got cancer...

    In your case however that's not a good answer, because things have causes and so do your preferences. If I remember correctly, succubi are metaphysical demons that suck out men's life-force by having intercourse with them. Is there some sexual / feminist / Lilith thing going on behind your your choice? Or is it specifically because of the wings... why not an angel in that case? Not how you see yourself? ;)

    (Personally I suspect that the origin of these and similar naughty creatures across monotheistic cultures lies in a few priests' wet dreams who felt guilty about having all those naughty dreams. After all, they were unfamiliar with the reality that for chaste men it's either spanking or unwittingly wetting the sheets once in a while. (Yes, I draw major amusement from the knowledge that all chaste clergymen are in fact either wankers or bedwetters.))

    Anyway, what I find fascinating is that you'd choose a form that's deliberately alienating to most people, while simultaneously having that aura of sexual forbidden pleasure. Can't really say which option I'd prefer if push comes to shove, but definitely give me a call once you sport these hooves and we'll find out. (You sure don't place a lot of value on going shoe-shopping either I guess.)

    Question is - are you really willing to pay for these modifications ASAP?
    I mean... in maybe 20 years these hooves could acutally be feasible. Would you seriously consider cutting off your feet and waking up the next day with artificially grown hooves that match your DNA?
    Apart from the difficulty of finding someone who would actually perform the first slew of such operations - I would be seriously impressed if you didn't chicken out, once your hypothetical dream gradually becomes a concrete possibility.

    After all you're human and apart from the physical alienation that "early augmentation adopters" surely will face on a massive basis, there may be other psychologically severe side-effects. Our predictive ability with regards to how good we will feel in the future, once we exactly get what we want are pretty crappy to be honest.

    That "brilliant" tattoo usually grows old quick. And if you don't have the resources to change back, that may put quite a strain on your mood.
    People usually have an evolved affinity towards the human form and any deviations of that may seem really cool in pictures or VR, but turn out to be far less... appealing and attractive if implemented in reality. That may be fixed with neural tinkering as well, but that's gonna be one long way to go miss.

      Why a succubus specifically? Because I like sex, I'm a pinup artist, and I like to flirt. I also happen to think that horns hooves and wings and tails are sexy.

      I could give you the intellectual answer, that demons by the original Greek definition are like muses, but tend to be more passionate, driving artists to create instead of inspiring, and discuss how I use ideas and words to paint seductive pictures of the future, or I could allow you to think the holier-than-thou crowd answer of "I'm rebelling against god" is the truth, or discuss how I feel that humanity has built far too many taboos about sex and sexuality and I am working to free humanity of this ridiculous yoke of parochial taboos created by a small tribe of shepherds 3000 years ago who considered women property and forbad any sexual acts that did not produce children as a commodity, but those are mere rationalizations. I simply wish to be free to look as I desire, and to enable that same freedom for everyone. I just happen to like classical demonesses. (And satyrs, and fauns, and centaurs and most anthropomorphs.)

      And yes, I am quite aware that wings can be very inconvenient in a world built for humans, and so can tails, but so what? My first set of wings is likely to be detachable prosthetics, same with my horns, and what really is all that different about hooves instead of high heels? Other than the fact that I need different kinds of shoes?

      I also have to disagree with you about time scales. A functional set of hooves is possible to design right now, it's just not "easy" or "cheap" to do so. In fact Tim Curry got quite adept at walking in a pair for the movie Legend. So have a lot of "ponygirls" in the S&M scene. Believe me, I am far from being the only person who finds hooves sexy.

      And while you do indeed have some very valid points, again, I have to say "so what?" I want what I want, same as everyone else, and sure, once I get it, I might get bored, but succubi are shapeshifters after all, and eventually I will be too. Who knows what I might be 100 years from now. I already have an alternate form in mind that I might use prior to the succubus one simply because it might be simpler to design - my Neon Jackal, who's my most popularly requested shapeshift in Secondlife. Why should I be tied down to one single form for eternity? Why should anyone?

      But in the end, it still comes down to sex. I don't view sex as either a taboo subject, nor am I ashamed of being a sexual creature. I like evoking desire regardless of form and view it as an art. I simply lack a lot of the hangups that too much of our society is cursed with due to the bullshit sexual inhibitions ingrained into the majority of the population by religious brainwashing, and I don't have a problem being "in your face" about expressing my sexuality or with being a sexual creature, nor do I view sex as a "sin". That's why I'm a succubus.

    You sure are one interesting person VI.

    By the way I wasn't trying to convince you that your desire to become a succubus is a pipe dream or somehow immoral/disgusting. I seriously didn't intend to persuade you one way or the other, I believe its 100% your choice. It's simply that when I'm playing with the idea of seeing such a dramatic transformation become reality for a person, I remember the sharp distinction between fantasy and reality, as well as how shitty people are at predicting what they "really" want before they actually get it.

    One little example that's also connected to sexuality is the fact that a rather large percentage of males anonymously admits to enjoy homoerotic fantasies once in a while. But once they are confronted with the prospect of making that fantasy a reality with an actual person, their brain injects a feeling of disgust. And I don't really think that the pressure to conform to social norms is the reason for this unconsciously injected disgust-reaction. It's simply the clash between fantasy and reality and the insight that hairy buttocks aren't really all that appealing in reality.

    As far as sexual inhibitions go, I share your POV and wish humans could handle that facet of people's personality more like grown ups. However, while you're rightfully bashing the religious mindset for its poor handling of sexuality, I think the evidence rather points in the direction, that religious dogma merely enforces sexual neuroticism that already lies dormant in most people for evolutionary reasons.

    For example - if we aren't attracted a person, we usually feel disgust when thinking about getting physically too close to them. Basically we're disgusted by other people's bodily fluids and smells if our brain hasn't marked these people as sexually desirable - for hygienic aka health-enhancing reasons presumably. I suppose that's why imagining people you don't find attractive (and moreover know personally) having sex is usually a pretty disgusting thought.

    I think that's the major reason why people have trouble seeing other people as sexual entities and tend to omit that aspect of their personality entirely, until it's forced upon them explicitly by the situation or other people. Incidentally, sex-jokes work so well for a good reason, namely because they feel a bit awkward and because people feel quite insecure about their sexuality.

    Sex may be the most powerful yet hidden desire people have, but sadly it's not all fun and games - sex really has a kind of dark side to it, precisely because it is so powerful and desirable while people's rationality and self-control is so damn weak... and apparently not everyone can handle that aspect of desire so well.

    In that sense, I think our culture isn't the only reason for why people are sexually hung up - but it sure can be one powerful catalyzer. But yes, we definitely should guide society into a much more tolerant direction. Let's hope the coming century will be a blast for the furries and for you as well. Main thing is you're happy.

    So I found your article really interesting.
    My question in the simplest sense is this: How do you understand desire and value?

    More specifically, I wonder if you're familiar with some of the more complex understandings of desire and value that have been written up in the last few centuries. Do you know anything about John Dewey, Freud, or Neo-Freudians?

    I'm asking not because I see your stance on desire to weird or atypical; rather I see it as perhaps a typical position on desire carried out to it's logical conclusion, I’m a bit worried about the position itself, and I’m happy to have found someone who speaks for it so explicitly (and colorfully as well, which I appreciate, though I confess the ponygirls reference was a bit much for me).

    I'm really not that interested in giving you some kind of long rundown lecture on theories of desire and value I know about because that, to me, comes off as way to pretentious and condescending. However, I think I have to describe them a bit to explain my point here.

    So I go with Dewey because he's probably the most well respected as well as well liked (hard to hate a guy who worked for education reform most of his life).

    Dewey begins with a premise about human psychology, which is that we can train ourselves (or be coerced) to value and desire a wide variety of things. He then says essentially that if this is true, we should recognize that we have a responsibility to train our desires and values in a certain way. What he doesn’t do next is assert any kind of traditionalism or totalitarianism, advocating the desires/values of the past or some sort those doled out by some kind of philosopher king. Instead, he appeals to a simple piece of wisdom (one he committed his life to observing and testing). This is that people can, if they sit down and discuss matters in a certain way, often make quite good predictions about which desires and values will be not just instantaneously but also consistently and constructively desirable and valuable.

    In sort, this means that a statement that something has been desired or valued carries only limited moral relevance. When you say you “simply wish to be [x, y, & z,]”, Dewey would ask (and would have us all ask) what specifically about x, y, and z makes them worth desiring? Are they desires that are likely to help you contribute to anything, or are they desires that will hamper your contributions to relevant social orders? Further, he would point out that your being convinced you have answered these questions for yourself is not enough. What he would request is that these questions be answered by a group of people (because of course, if x, y, & z are to be desirable, we ought to be able to come to some agreement about this).

    We end up with problems, of course. How do we pick our group of people to discuss with? Does anyone have any kind of authority in this group (psychologists, philosophers, sociologists, etc?)? What if there seems to be good agreement about the value of something within one group, but disagreement comes from a separate group?

    I think Dewey has answers to all these questions, but it’s too much to get into.

    I’ll close instead with a quote from him, and await your response.

    "Assured and integrated individuality is the product of definite social relationships and publicly acknowledged functions." (Individualism - Old and New)

      Nope, haven't read them, but I'll boil my views down to a single line

      "And it harm none, do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

      Or to quote a favorite book title, "Ain't Nobodies Business if You Do" http://mcwilliams.com/books/aint/

      I don't care what your desire is, provided it's one that does not cause harm to non-consenting people. Your freedom to swing your fist stops where the other guys nose begins, other than that, anything goes. It doesn't matter if your desire serves a greater good, or is socially acceptable or whether it's going to kill you sooner or later SO LONG AS NO ONE ELSE IS HARMED WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT. It matters not one iota if your desires offer value to anyone else so long as YOU find value in them, so long as that value does not come at someone else's expense.

      Most philosophers I've found try to complicate things far too much. I like to keep it simple, so I'll add one more quote that pretty much goes along with that first one up there to define what I consider the main tenets of mine: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Put those two together with the three commandments I talked about in an earlier post and you pretty much have my philosophical outlook on life.

        Thanks for your timely responses to your readers. It’s great to be able to have some extended conversation on this topic. My next question, if I can phrase it in a way that avoids the over-complication you’re talking about, is this:

        What’s harm without consent?

        Obviously, we agree that physical violence counts, but could you flesh out your position a bit more?

        I offer a short scale, with the question being: where does it stop being harm without consent?

        1. Attempting violent, totalitarian, racist, genocidal, world domination
        2. Murdering 10 average unknown people to save yourself 10 minutes of slave-labor
        3. Murdering 1 average unknown person to save yourself 1 week of horrible slave-labor
        4. Murdering 1 average unknown person to save yourself 1 year of horrible slave-labor
        5. Torturing 1 average unknown person to the point of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to save yourself 1 year of horrible slave-labor
        6. Killing a terminally ill and pained person with their consent
        7. Killing a terminally ill and pained person who gave consent long ago but can no longer confirm it
        8. Killing a terminally ill and pained person who never and cannot give consent
        9. Killing a otherwise healthy but emotionally confused person who gives consent
        10. Killing a person who seems both physically and mentally healthy but gives consent
        11. Donating to an organized crime ring known to torture and murder
        12. Donating to a human trafficking organization
        13. Buying stock and making profits in “emerging markets” despite knowing this money will likely be used to keep people stuck in slave-labor conditions indefinitely
        14. Bombing homeless shelters when everyone’s gone for the night
        15. Spending large amounts of money lobbying for the closure of homeless shelters
        16. Voting to reduce funding for homeless shelters
        17. Eating 2 pounds of beef every day (lots of pollution)
        18. Buying 5 gallons of gasoline every day and burning it in a barrel in your backyard (moderate pollution)
        19. Using the old kind of aerosol that destroys the ozone layer (minimal pollution)
        20. Speaking about the unimportance of the sciences, arts, or humanities
        21. Being personally ignorant of advances made in the sciences, arts, or humanities
        22. Voting to defund the sciences, arts, or humanities
        23. Not taking any personal action to further the sciences, arts, or humanities
        24. Not helping a fallen old lady pick herself up
        25. Not helping a fallen old lady pick herself up when you’re late for work and driving
        26. Listening to someone go down a thought/life-path that you think might lead to suicide and not intervening
        27. Listening to someone go down a thought/life-path that you think will lead them to contribute little to society and not intervening

        I’m not interested in saying too much more because I’m curious about your cutoff and your thoughts, but I will say that typically, people have several cutoffs, one for what’s legally intolerable, one for the things one has a responsibility to encourage others not to do, and one for what one simply has an obligation not to do their self.

        If you’re interested, I’d cutoff illegality around 19, responsibility to discourage around 26, and personal responsibility at 27, but I think I’m sort of an extremist.

        I hope the general relevance of this to your article is clear. The things is, whether we’re advocating or predicting a free-desire state (so long as they’re not harmful desires), we have to be very clear about what count as free desires. I’d also be interested in your thoughts about any differences between what you’d like to happen and what you think will happen.

        Thanks again for your thoughts.

          You are looking for hard and fast definitions when there are none, Adam.

          Harm comes down to a case by case basis, regardless of how hard lawyers seek to create hard and fast rules. Some people can shrug off what would drive someone else to suicide. Intention must also be considered. Did you commit an action in full knowledge that it would cause someone harm?

          For example, I know of a case of what I would consider attempted murder in which someone viciously verbally assaulted a bi-polar person, using personal knowledge to say the most emotionally hurtful things possible and then told them to kill themselves. Had I not been present to stop her, she would be dead right now. Yet those same words said to me would have merely pissed me off.

          So again, your freedom to swing your fist ends at the other guy's nose, and no two noses are the same length. Every case must be examined on a case by case basis, which our current legal systems have no hope of doing. There are no hard and fast clear cut definitions that can be applied to every situation, and never have been. You are looking for something that cannot exist, an ABSOLUTE guide in a world in which absolutes don't exist.

    Fascinating read Valkyrie Ice. I am sorry that technology has not fully evolved to accomodate your desire to be a Succubus IRL. Of course, me being a man should prolly make me grateful...(just joking).

    Your avatar name paired with the legend of succubi is a sexy but deadly combo. Valkyrie (chooser of the slain) Ice ( cold, soooo cold!) and a succubus (female demon that seduces men for her own gain and amusement)---Wow!
    I'm joining Second Life just to be your playtoy!

    In all sincerity---You are lucid, highly intelligent and mistress of her IRL universe. I like what you're doing with inner space, GF....

      Actually a Valkyrie's "Ice" is poetic slang for her sword.

      And thank you for the compliment, but I'm not out to seduce anyone for gain. I just like pleasure, both giving and receiving. I'm much nicer than the "traditional" succubi.

      To be blunt, "succubi" are a myth created to create a negative female stereotype, that a woman who was "in charge" of her own sexuality was "an evil, soul sucking demon" who would destroy men with sex. This was because a woman who was independent was a "threat" to the religious and patriarchal social systems that insisted that women were supposed to be good little willing sextoys who let the man be in charge of the sexlife. Obviously any woman who simply wanted to have the freedom to determine for herself who she slept with could only be up to "wickedness" because she refused to comply with the meek little sextoy role that was the only "allowable" one for women.

      I'm not evil, nor am I a golddigger out to get trinkets and money in exchange for sex. I'm not "rebelling against god" though I AM rebelling against the negative stereotyping against succubi that the religious crowd keeps trying to foist on me. I'm just me and happy to be me, and that's all.

    A most interesting response. Your having aptly summarized what appeared to be my position makes me feel the need to say, “hey, wait, I don’t think that”. I want to explain what I’m about, and I’ll start with where I come from.

    My absolute favorite author on ethics is Carol Gilligan, who writes:

    “Hypothetical dilemmas , in the abstraction of their presentation, divest actors from the history and psychology of their individual lives and separate the moral problem from the social contingencies of its possible occurrence. In doing so, these dilemmas are useful for the distillation and refinement of objective principles of justice and for measuring the formal logic of quality and reciprocity. However, the reconstruction of the dilemma in it contextual particularity allows the understanding of cause and consequence which engages the compassion and tolerance…”
    Concepts of Self and Morality, from In a Different Voice

    “To understand how the tension between responsibilities and rights sustains the dialectic of human development is to see the integrity of two disparate modes of experience that are in the end connected. While an ethic of justice proceeds from the premise of equality—that everyone should be treated the same—an ethic of care rests on the premise of nonviolence—that no one should be hurt. Un the representation of maturity, both perspective converge in the realization that just as inequality adversely affects both parties in an unequal relationship, so too violence is destructive for everyone involved.”
    Visions of Maturity, from In a Different Voice

    It’s from these positions particularly that I want to say, yes. The absolutes, the legalistic jargon, the lack of appreciation for context are the problems with morality as its most often taken up. I don’t want to go there; I’m not after absolutes; for me that kind of moralizing is long since bankrupt.

    However, I am pushing for a morality that is more than just-that-which-is-not absolutes, because what is that? It has no specificity. If you want to tell people that some things are harm, you have to say something . Of course, it doesn’t have to be an absolute, it can just be a value. Of course, for a value to not be an absolute, you have to acknowledge that it’s not a fact, some unchanging part of your character or being, but rather, a project, and one best undertaken with others (it’d be confusing if they weren’t a part of the project, being the ones that will end up bearing the effects of our values).

    Luckily, I think you and I agree on enough that we can say some things about values generally (I apologize in advance for all the false assumptions I’m probably about to make. It’s a difficult task, for what that’s worth). I’m telling you what I value and trying to phrase it in such a way that I think you’ll agree with me, but I’m interested to know what you think the problems are.

    Value 1: Appreciation for development of identity within a society.
    Your article speaks clearly of someone who pays enough attention to society to see that it shapes identities powerfully. I think we can take this awareness and turn it into a value governing behavior. We can say that probably awareness of how we all contribute to the masks we are all allowed to wear is not just a nifty aspect of your character, rather, it’s an awareness that people need to have for society to work. This means you can’t just enjoy your awareness. Some kind of constructive work is going to be required to spread it, and we’re morally responsible for this work. Maybe we can convince ourselves that this work stops at lecturing people who will listen, but my sense is that the work cannot stop there if we’re to prevent our digital society to do anything but mirror the ignorance of our current one as far as social determination of personality. Whether it’s making certain laws, certain compulsory education, certain controls on the conditions children develop in, something beyond just not-harm is going to be required.

    Value 2: Appreciation for the possibility of a different society
    This value is much the same as the above. Again, you have an awareness that I don’t think all that many people share. For you (and I hope for me as well), it’s clear that the ignorant blunderings of our current society do mean we are condemned to “unchangeable certainties”. You realize that perhaps if we could do something significant to the conditions under which people develop, we could create a society that would value these better conditions enough that they would be sustained and real change could occur (We probably disagree about what doing “something significant” looks like, but I’m coming to that). Again, I encourage you to realize that people have to share this vision if it’s going to take off. If we speed into a virtual reality internet of possibility with too many minds closed to the idea of change for the better, we’ll creatively engineer (and we mustn’t underestimate such creativity) a way to close off much of its possibility the same way we’ve closed off so much of the low-tech possibilities we could have opened (or so I contend) in this world before we even figured out electricity. Again, I think we have to see the spreading of openness to serious change as a kind of duty, and one that we probably won’t fulfill (at least, not fast enough) by simply lecturing adults who’ve already been hammered into submission.

    Value 3: A realization that harm is fundamentally about alienation and rejection
    Another awareness; another value. From your comment about the suicide attempt and your sense of people’s quiet desperation, I gather that you pay enough attention to harm to see it for what it is, a claim that “you’re not…” whether it’s allowed, good, relevant, acceptable, interesting, human, etc. This is what harm boils down to. I raise this is the last possible value because I think it most clearly illustrates the enormity of the real project that, given your awareness, you have a duty to be a part of. The fact is, however much people buy into the values of social development and possibility, most people are terrible at understanding harm. Parents who don’t beat their kids berate them, or silently devalue their projects, or give praise only in mediums that are meaningless until the kids adopt the same alienating worldview. Nearly all workplaces ask us to be all the wrong things, selling out the time-consuming task of real acceptance of anyone for profit, or efficiency, or political-correctness. If there is anything you seem to care about that requires an ethic bigger than no-harm-without-consent, it’s got to be a society without alienation and rejection. I promise you people will figure out a way to bring alienation and rejection forward into your future, and probably make them even bigger, if work isn’t done now.

    The physical present beckons. If there’s to be some kind of singularity, we may only have one good shot at getting the digital transition right. Playing the social games of the future before we get there is irresponsible. The freedoms that are at stake are never individual; if you’re got the education to think deviantly, you’ve already received nearly all the freedom the world has to offer, and this freedom has been given to you by a system that deprives it to most of its real workers overseas.

    Ditch the horns, the wings, the sexual fixation, and the virtualness. Those most in need are of a timid temperament, and you’re scaring them. They need to be led by people who have a certain at-hominess in their worlds. It’s the same old line. Unite the workers, corrupt the youth to good, end up a misunderstood martyr to a religion you hoped would never be.

    If you’re going to make progress, you’ll have to do it with a better and more creative vehicle than demonic seduction by night. If we can’t sell some of these values successfully, most people will never realize they have any ability to create their world. If they don’t, they’re only going to drag the rest of us down into the mass-media-separation-of-wealth-enslaving-of-the-masses-closing-of-consciousness that we’ll deserve.

    I’m pulling for the effort too. Sorry about the goofy rhetoric. I’m interested in your continued thoughts.

      First off, let me address your last point first.

      I'm a artist hun. My entire intention is provoking a reaction. Am I scaring people? Yup. That's part of the point. There's a Tsunami coming, and people have their head in the sand thinking that nothing is going to happen while a bunch of other people think that they can do something to head it off, direct it, control it, or lessen it's effect in some manner. I might indeed wish to ensure that the fewest number of people die during this tsunami, but I'm not fool enough to think that anything I have to say or do will do a damn thing to change it, mitigate it, or ease it's passing.

      I recommend reading my other articles. The future that is barreling down on us at warp speed is not the nice neat sci-fi fantasy world of Star Trek, it's not the dystopia of Cyber Punk, it's not the dream world of the Matrix or any other sci-fi or fantasy setting you care to think of. It is quite seriously THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT.

      The key words there are *as we know it*. Literally, I think a vast majority of the human race is going to wind up functionally insane for a while. As in cuckoo, drooling, bad acid trip, tie me up in a straight jacket insane because the world they have spent their entire existence being a part of if going to disappear almost overnight. It's going to become every single fantasy and nightmare the human race has ever had all at once.

      Over the next decade, we are going to have one minor little "breakthrough" after another, no single one of which is going to seem to be of any significance, and no single one of which is going to register as "world shaking," because none of them are. Not taken individually. CUMULATIVELY they will turn this world upside down and inside out, and leave behind a world in which most of the current causes of suffering have simply ceased to exist. That doesn't mean that we won't suffer for entirely different reasons, just that they will NOT be the ones we suffer from now.

      I'm not trying to "create" a better world, I'm merely commenting on what I see happening and extrapolating it to a logical conclusion. I really don't think that anything I say is "making a difference," or has a hope in hell of changing anything of what is happening and that will happen. Personally, I view myself as little more than a radio commentator, or a reporter. I observe and report, then examine the possible consequences of what I'm reporting on. Sure, maybe I'm a bit more eccentric than most, more of a Howard Stern than a Walter Cronkite, but I'm still just a commentator, not a crusader. I don't need to be. A better future is developing as a natural evolution from the current one, through very straightforward, logical, and pretty much inevitable stages. All I am hoping to do is speed up a few of those changes in a manner that reduces the suffering involved during the transition stages by inspiring a few people who CAN affect that future development in a manner that I cannot. I'm a nobody. All I have is my ability to paint pictures with words and hope that I might eventually be able to do more. But I will do so as myself, not as a mask worn to make people feel comfortable.

      I WILL be responding to the rest of your post later, probably tomorrow, as I work nights, just got off a ten hour shift and have another tonight, and merely responded right now because I couldn't sleep until I had addressed at least this point. In the meantime, click on my name at the top of this post and go to my blog and read a few entries. They might answer some of your questions.

      Okay, to start the reply to the rest of your post, let me explain how I view the “social environment” itself.

      Mankind is an animal, and all aspects of our social system are affected by this fact. We are driven by two goals, survival, and reproduction. Survival is a co-operative collective behavior, the need to form “Packs” Reproduction is a competitive individual behavior, the need to form “pecking orders.” Both behaviors have positive effects and both have negative effects, and together they form the dynamic that shapes the world and society.

      We form collectives to “share resources” and provide for needs, acting as a group to reduce individual “labor” costs while multiplying the “returns” of that labor. Ideally, all members of the collective contribute, and thus all members deserve an equal share in the “rewards” of their labor. While not all members contribute in the same manner, collectively, all contributions are equal. The concept of “justice” is thus a “collective” concept, based on universal equality of all contributing members of a collective.

      However, we also seek to compete within this collective, and form “pecking orders” which are primarily based on “reproductive fitness” with “high status actors” being seen as “more fit” than “low status actors.” We determine this “Status” based on an enormous number of ill-defined “markers” that cover nearly all aspects of an individual’s existence.

      All humans have basic NEEDS that must be met to ensure their basic survival, and well being. ONLY denial of these needs constitutes harm in my view.

      Those needs are: Food, Shelter, Education, Medical Care, and Security.

      The human body needs food to continue day to day existence, shelter to protect the body from the environment, education to enable them to be a productive contributor to the collective, medical care to ensure their continued good health, and security to be free from physical and social violence. Denial of any of these needs prevents an individual from reaching their maximum potential as a productive member of society.

      However, due to competition, it’s also human nature to seek to maximize the resources consumed, or more precisely “claimed”, by any individual due to its function as a “status marker.” In other words, by claiming a larger number of resources, the individual thus increases personal status as a “more desirable mate” regardless of physical appearance, physical abilities, or other physical status markers.

      In an accountable society, in which all members are accountable to all others, this does not cause many problems. A good hunter would have a valid claim to the “best cuts” in order to maximize his ability to continue hunting. His “status” is based on his value to the collective, and his receiving “bonuses” is not detrimental to the needs of the others in the collective. It’s a system used throughout the animal kingdom by nearly all social animals.

      The problem is that in human society, accountability has been lost due to creation of larger and larger “collectives” in which it has become possible to hide the individual’s actions from the collective at large. Secrecy has allowed individuals to perform actions that increase their “benefits” drawn from the collective TO THE DETRIMENT OF ALL OTHER INDIVIDUALS IN THE COLLECTIVE, and avoid the checks and balances that society has that would otherwise prevent this parasitic behavior from being as widespread as it is.
      So, with that said, on to the rest.

      Value 1: Appreciation for development of identity within a society.

      Society as it currently exists forces people into roles for which they are ill suited, while preventing most individuals from making valid contributions to social development by instead forcing them to hide their natural abilities in order to perform as “robots” for the benefit of the few who have successfully gamed the system and are maximizing the benefits they claim from a society in which they contribute almost no actual value. As such, the “masks” worn inside that society are shackles designed by a parasitic social class system in which those who produce the most are valued the least, while those who produce the least claim values far beyond their due. This system treats human need as a commodity, in which money is a proxy for social status, and in which productivity decreases the higher up the “pecking order” you go. This inverted social order is possible only because our species has learned how to use secrecy to escape accountability and by doing so, enabled a few members of the society to effectively become parasites on the rest.

      A just society would not only view all members as equal, it would seek to maximize the potentials of all members by using their strengths, not force them to fit into cookie cutter molds designed to reduce those members into “worker drones” laboring to benefit others at the expense of their own NEEDS.

      This would require a system in which each individual not only has their individual needs met, but in which all members are accountable to all other members for their individual actions and accepts responsibility for their role as a contributing member of society. This means that no member of society has a right to benefit from that society in a manner that prevents other members of the society from having their needs met, and that no member of society is entitled to benefits massively in excess of their needs while any members of that society are having their needs unmet.

      This is NOT FEASIBLE given current societal structure, and cannot be made feasible until accountability can be enforced unilaterally across all tiers of society and until every member of a society can receive an education which is personally tailored to maximize their personal potential value to society by concentrating on their individual strengths and interests.

      AT NO POINT does this kind of society require the creation of social “masks” because it acknowledges that diversity is the best means by which all paths are explored, and enables and encourages individuals to find their own means to provide contributions to the collective. Only a parasitical system seeks to force masks on individuals in order to reduce them to “drones” in order to minimize their disruptive potential to the “pecking order” and ensure that the parasites can continue to benefit at their expense.

      Value 2: Appreciation for the possibility of a different society

      I do indeed understand that a different society is possible, and that such a society is the basis of human civilization. It is the society that humanity would naturally develop under conditions of universal accountability and does not exist currently due to the inability of current society to enforce universal accountability. As such, there is no means given current technological abilities to enable society to return to its natural state. However, we are developing the means to enable this return to accountability, and thus the quickest path to achieving this “different society” involves promoting those technologies which will enable this return in the shortest period of time.

      Which is precisely what I am doing by reporting on the particular technologies that I report on, and by illustrating the potentials that I do. While you may not agree with my methods, I am doing what I see to be the best course of action, providing a non-consensus voice that promotes individuality and examines potentials that “mainstream” futurists will not look at due to their fears of “losing social status” within the current society. I have no status to lose, and I am willing to speak about topics that much of society finds uncomfortable.

      Value 3: A realization that harm is fundamentally about alienation and rejection

      Actually harm is a denial of basic NEEDS. Alienation and rejection are merely social tools used by the pecking order to enforce the pecking order and serve necessary functions in the promotion of survival. In an accountable society, they would prevent the sort of parasitical behavior that has become endemic throughout the world, as this is the function that they were evolved to perform.

      Regardless of what actions I take, society is already evolving towards the elimination of the parasitic behaviors that lie behind the overwhelming injustices that exist in our current world. My goal is to merely educate anyone who is interested in examining the mechanisms of that change, and to hopefully inspire those few who have the ability to speed up the development of those mechanisms to do so. If this eventually results in my becoming able to take more direct actions to accelerate that development myself, I will.

      I hope this answers some of your questions.

    Our society is based on deception and way too much prosperity. Noone would care about having wings or becoming an AI if they had to fight every day just to have a meal or a shelter at night. It is far more important what we do with our lives than who we are. If you are the center of your life than your values are misplaced.

    I'll be off traveling for a week now, so I'm not sure if or when I'll be able to return to this discussion, but this is an interesting theory of society.

    I think the account of yourself as an educator and reporter is certainly interesting. Call me dogmatic or spiritual or whatever, but I get off on hearing that people are taking their lives and trying to contribute to projects that they've thought about for themselves for more than a few minutes. My own hope is to be an academic or teacher trying to help people (and myself) understand the purposes and potentials of education in all its psychological and philosophical complexities.

    I like the five basic needs you've laid out, though I think perhaps it's best to break up "education" into two or more categories, simply because there's so much going on there. Seems to me that people's needs for 1) a logical structure (language, mathematics, natural sciences, etc.) to comprehend and interpret the world, and 2) a social structure to enforce useful norms/habits like hygiene, some amount of other-directedness rather than narcissism (empathy/sympathy), a base level of trust/reverence for some kinds of authority, and some serious critical thinking skills to prevent trust/reverence from getting us into too much trouble.

    My thought is though that if we expand education in this way, it becomes clear that the list of things that might be harmful (or that are at least in some kind of grey area) expands as well.

    Clearly, indoctrinating kids with some kind of confused donate-all-your-resources-to-the-cult religion is going to be denying them their basic need and thus count as harm.

    Also, probably being a really good teacher who just can't answer one tough student question or two probably doesn't constitute harm.

    But what about all the middle ground? I mean, the states of our education systems are at least to some extent determined by the millions of people who weigh in on them, whether through their votes, or their words to their children, or through their blog posts. I mean, bright people choosing to be financial industry workers, managers, and CEO's rather than teachers are, collectively, having a huge effect on the basic content students learn. So do their actions count as harm?

    Also, I'd be quite interested in your account of responsibility. Obviously, I'm not supposed to cause harm directly, but what do you think about indirect harm? What kind of responsibility do people have to say, contribute or discourage the efforts of people who seem to be harmful?

    I couldn't end with a better closing thought than you did (though I'll restate it), that though society is bigger than all of us and we have to in some ways resign ourselves to its movements, it's still meaningful to have projects and try to contribute.

    Thanks for the dialog, it's been fun.

    >Our societies, regardless of nation or culture, are built upon social norms assumed to be outside of human control. Extropia and I, and others like us, suffer the prejudice that derives from these “unchangeable certainties.”she’ll tell you she is a virtual persona—a fully separate entity from the person “running” her as a simulation<

    It would be lying to say my persona is fully separated from my primary's. We share the same brain and the experiences one of us have no doubt has effects on the other. We may not always be conscious of the effect one has on the other, but no doubt they are occurring.

    You are right in saying I hope to one day become fully independent. But that day has not yet arrived. I define a digital person as 'a fictional character created and developed in online social networks/worlds'. I see 'fictional' as having more meanings than just 'not real'. See:

    http://theunlimiteddreamcompany.wordpress.com/who-are-you-2/712-2/

    >Our societies, regardless of nation or culture, are built upon social norms assumed to be outside of human control. Extropia and I, and others like us, suffer the prejudice that derives from these “unchangeable certainties.”<

    I have been trying to think of instances where I have been subject to prejudice. I guess the very fact I have to think so hard to recall such instances means I do not suffer prejudice, or at least only rarely.

    I do recall one person labelling me as 'cultist' because of my transhuman beliefs. Maybe that counts as prejudiced thinking. One or two people insist on ascribing a male gender to me, and maybe that is another. But the vast majority of people I meet do not exhibit prejudiced behaviour. They may have some disagreement with one or more aspects of my digital person beliefs, but they are respectful of them.

      *giggle* I kind of figured you had to deal with the same sort of "why don't you use your real name instead of hiding behind an anonymous name" and the "why would you want to be "insert non human thing here" that I'm always running into. I've even had someone insult me just because he thought my breasts were too large.

      The most common prejudice is about me presenting a picture of my avatar as the "real me". I'm constantly getting dissed about "hiding my identity" so I figured you probably did too, as it's a pretty common complaint from some other "avatarians" I know.

      Glad to know that you've escaped that kind of BS.

    Heh :) "true equality?" It's impossible 'cause when ones think only and every time about herself\himself, about images, parties, sex, communications a-la «bla-bla-bla» about it others create opportunities, resources, conditions and more and more…. CREATE Entities For Them

    This is a month old now - dunno if you're reading the comments anymore..

    But..I've always identified more with a succubus as well; though realistically I seem to be more of an Alice-type succubus if you know what that is.

    I do hope humanity reaches this point soon. :( I long for my wings, spaded tail, and ram horns as well (not hooves though; they look great but it's not for me). Though even if I was able to do this technologically I think I'd feel a little jipped. It wouldn't really be fake I guess..but maybe I can't help but feel that nag. Though perhaps such options would alleviate such self-image issues along with it.

    More importantly; I wanted to ask you your feelings regarding the phenomenon of phantom limb and the inverse (having something you feel you shouldn't have (I don't know the name)) in relation to such extreme body modifications. Do you think it would have terrible affects after such a drastic alteration? Maybe we'll just change our mental body map too?

    Maybe I'm crazy but I for one feel those parts. I've always felt a phantom tail, long since I was a child; but later have felt that "missing" feeling just inside/below my shoulder blades and sort of above my temples. Perhaps this mental map thing can all be alleviated in one's own head? Do you happen to feel them sometimes, too? :p

    Also I tried SL once but it seems difficult to get the look you want without paying someone to do it for you or being a 3D modeler. I couldn't really figure out what to actually *do* on SecondLife, either. The night clubs and sex RP wasn't really appealing to me. What do you do on there? How'd you go about procuring the model you wanted?

      This is one of those areas where I'd probably have a clinical diagnosis of delusion by a closed minded psychiatrist, but I've encountered many people who have the same phantom limb syndrome

      I've always had it. It's part of why I eventually just stopped trying to hide the fact that I want to become one. It's not "changing who I am", it's "Becoming what I am". Sure, a lot of people can't relate, but they don't have to live with the feeling of looking at the wrong face, body and even species in the mirror every day.

      The brain is far more flexible than most people want to accept. They've already proven that people "become" the virtual persona they are given in studies. Men experiencing a total immersion VR in a female avatar felt "female" just as females felt like "men" They've even confirmed the ability to use a 3rd arm in conjunction with the natural two. We adjust our "mental map" to reflect perceived reality, because our "world view" is entirely constructed in our minds from the data we receive with our senses. Change the data, and it changes our world view.

      And I'm an artist. I made myself in SL. There is nothing to "do" in SL. It's merely a virtual world, not a game. there's no more a specific thing to do in SL than there is in RL. As we progress, SL is going to become much easier to use, and other VR worlds will come into existence. At this time, SL is merely a proof of concept that is still in progress. It's like the Pong of the VR future.

    I wouldn't expect the entire congregation at a church to try and "exorcise" you if you showed up at a church dressed as a succubus or with the body of a succubus. By the time you're talking about, weather it's the distant or not so distant future, I'd assume enough people would have heard about body modification that they'd know what was really going on-that it's a human being with the body of a succubus, who won't cause anyone any harm-and wouldn't be too alarmed. I mean, if body modification reaches the point where everyone can turn themselves into succubi, I'd expect it to be all over the news, and only people who don't get news broadcasts, like, say, the Amish, wouldn't know about it.

    I, to, have ambitions to one day be able to turn into a succubus, which is the reason I got into genetics and am taking classes over the summer to get into the genetics institute at my local University. It looks like I might have the same problem as you, since I'm a Catholic, and I worry about how my fellow parishioners will react when they see me like that. But I don't worry about my fellow parishioners being so ignorant that they'd mistake me for a real life servant of Satan and run away screaming while the pastor tries to banish me back to Hell using his crucifix. The worst I'd probably get from the other people in the pews is "young lady, that's very offensive.", to which I'd respond "Just 'cause I like this body doesn't mean I worship Satan."

    Anyways, I just want you to know that I share your vision, and am working hard to make it a reality. However, I won't be joining you in sporting a pair of hooves. Just a personal preference of mine.

    (PS: You may find it ironic that I'm a Catholic and want a succubus body. The truth is, I think the tail, bat wings, forked tongue, little devil horns, fangs and reptilian slit pupil eyes are sexy. Doesn't make me a worse Christian.)

    (PPS: Since succubi are shapeshifters, I'd probably stay in human form when in church myself, come to think of it. If for no reason other than comfort, at least until the build succubus-friendly pews. It's hard to sit down on a tail.)

      *giggle* actually hun, the point was to illustrate exactly what you pointed out, that my form should be meaningless to anyone but myself, but that in the context of current society, we use personal body forms as markers in the pecking order. I'd get the same response walking into a church with spikes and black leather and pentagrams everywhere.

      And no, I don't find it ironic at all.

      And to both of my latest two posters, TY for illustrating yet another point I was seeking to make. That I am FAR from being alone in my desires. Just because we are not commonplace does not mean we don't exist, nor that we will accept being ignored just because our desires don't match yours.

      Succubi of the world unite! *giggle* (and party till we all pass out)

        Can a dragon get in on the party? I'm about to share this article with all of the like-minded individuals I know in a minute.

        It's a shame that more otherkin don't know about transhumanism. Many otherkin are transhumanists and just don't know it because they haven't been exposed to what transhumanism is. We should really change that.

          Of course you can. I've been a furry pinup artist for far longer than I've been a futurism writer. It's my knowledge of the existence of furries, otherkin, vamps, lycans, neko-mimi, and god knows how many other "non-humans" that exist out there that tells me that vanilla humans are not going to be able to stop the world from becoming a lot less "ordinary" than it is now. There's just too many people out there who, given the ability to look as they wish, will choose to not be human.

          We might end up with ten million Angelina and Brad clones to start. But within a few years, the world will have far fewer humans, and far more demons, vamps, cat-girls and aliens.

    This article caught me at just the right moment. Bear with me for a bit as I wander.

    I grew up with mixed race parents. Mother is German decent, father is Native American. I'm white enough to grow up as an indian outsider. And was shunned as the indian bastard in proper old world German cliques. I didn't know my mothers side of the family, and the indians were going thru the latest round of assimilation into white society in the 1960s. So it was damned hard to I.D. with any ethnicity.

    I turned to fundamentalist Christianity. It wasn't until 10 or 15 years ago that I had to force myself to think outside of THAT box.

    In my 20s, I turned to scifi, and Star Trek. That worked out for a while, but it fell apart when it wasn't meeting my needs anymore.

    Then I entered my furry phase. Which was kind of good, cause it made me acknowledge another spectrum of my life, in that it wasn't bad to be gay, like the fundamentalists said. I had to admit to myself that it was okay that I had a bisexual encounter once, and God wasn't going to condemn me to hell.

    In my early 30s, I came to grips that I should be proud to be Native American, even if my skin was white.

    Then the internet happened, and I found VRML on the web.

    My current phobia is transhumanism. Absolutely nothing wrong with it. I can thank the scifi writers for that. But I'm at an age now where it's hard for me to keep pace with it. And I've been accused of living in the computer. I now find I must detach from Second Life and refocus on the default world. I try to keep pace with the trends. But often I fall into the old "this or nothing" belief circles. I'm comfortable as a futurist. But transhumanism, and more specifically, singularitarianism, are things that defy waiting for my absorption.

    I like your thinking, Valkyrie. You take all these disparate concepts and actually pull them together so it makes sense in my little pea-brain. If I read enough of what you write, I might just be able to jump from cyborg futurist to transhumanism without falling on my butt in the attempt. Stand your ground in your beliefs, because there are a lot of peeps like me out there that are learning by your example!

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